How Do I Barbecue Fish?

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  • Written By: Eugene P.
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 13 January 2020
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More than with other meats, some care has to be taken to barbecue fish. The delicate flesh of some fish can easily stick to an unprepared grill and might require special preparations. It also is important to understand that most fish fillets and steaks will cook in a matter of minutes and will start to dry out and burn after that. To barbecue fish that are whole or cut very thick, techniques such as creating aluminum foil pouches and using indirect heat will go a long way toward creating a fully cooked and moist meal. There also are some special recipes, such as blackened fish, that use more unusual cooking techniques to create a unique meal.

The first issue to address with barbecue fish is the tendency of the fish to stick to the grill grates. This can cause the fish to break apart when attempting to lift it off the grill. The chances of the fish sticking can be reduced by ensuring that the grill is hot before the fish is placed on it. The surface of the fish, as well as the grill grates, also should be generously brushed with oil or a mix of oil and butter to help increase the amount of lubrication. The fish also should be left alone once it is placed on the grill, because it will take a moment for the flesh to pull away from the grate, so it should not be turned or flipped for at least a minute.


Aluminum foil, soaked banana leaves or corn husks can be wrapped around fish before it is placed on a grill. This will make it easier to barbecue fish, because it will be protected from sticking while still having the ability to absorb some of the smoky flavor of the fire. One last method is to use a special fish basket that holds the fish firmly between two racks so it never directly touches the grill and can be moved easily.

It takes a much longer time to barbecue fish that are whole. These are usually grilled slowly over indirect heat and stuffed with herbs or slices of lemon. Wrapping an entire fish in foil or parchment can create an environment where the fish will steam and remain moist while also cooking faster than an unwrapped fish.

Most barbecue fish, except for whole fish, cook in only a few minutes on each side. The fish can be tested for doneness with a fork, because the flesh will flake and be opaque when prodded. During the cooking process, the fish can be basted with butter or flavored oils to increase the amount of flavor. For best results when completed, the barbecue fish should be taken off the grill with a spatula designed for lifting fish, or any thin, wide and slightly flexible utensil. Unlike some other types of meat, fish does not need a resting period to redistribute moisture internally after it is done.



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